25 Israeli Athletes Attend Special Olympics Opening in Abu Dhabi

Israel was to march between Iran and Iraq but local security officials moved the team to march before Jamaica so that 'the Israelis would feel safer'

The Israeli delegation marching at the opening event of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi, on Thursday, March 15, 2019.
AFP

A group of 25 Israeli athletes marched Thursday night at the opening event of the Special Olympics World Games in Abu Dhabi.

Israel was to march between Iran and Iraq but local security officials moved the team to march before Jamaica so that “the Israelis would feel safer,” according to one of the officials.

The delegation is the largest ever to represent Israel in an Arab country.

They marched while holding up a sign reading “Israel” as well as the country’s national symbols. Around 7,000 athletes will compete in four categories starting Friday: judo, bowling, swimming and basketball.

“These athletes prove to us that another way is possible,” Rabbi Shay Peron, chairman of Special Olympics Israel, said. “The stadium this evening was lit up with the light of special people, and we can only learn from them about willpower, perseverance and strength.”

Haaretz revealed in late 2017 that the international Special Olympics committee had rescinded the license of the Israeli association in charge of special needs athletes in Israel. It then handed over management of the athletes to Special Olympics Israel, headed by Peron.